A Plea for Biblical Preaching -- By: Thomas R. Schreiner

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 03:2 (Summer 1999)
Article: A Plea for Biblical Preaching
Author: Thomas R. Schreiner


A Plea for Biblical Preaching

Thomas R. Schreiner

Thomas R. Schreiner is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a position he accepted after a decade of teaching at Bethel Theological Seminary. He is the author of Interpreting the Pauline Epistles, The Law and Its Fulfillment: A Pauline Theology of Law, the Baker Exegetical Commentary on Romans, and several other scholarly publications. Schreiner’s tenure as editor of The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology begins with this issue.

It seems that almost everyone trumpets the importance of expositional preaching, and yet genuine and powerful expository preaching seems to be in short supply. Too often the text that is read before the sermon is abandoned or distorted when the preacher arises to proclaim the word. I am reminded of an exposition I read on Acts 27 where Paul’s shipwreck on Malta was used to say that we all need to take vacations. Paul would be rather surprised, to say the least, to discover that his trip to Malta was being likened to a Mediterranean cruise. Similarly, I heard a sermon on the many sufferings Paul experienced in his ministry on 2 Corinthians 11:23–29.

One of the lessons drawn for the people was the need to eliminate busyness in our lives to reduce stress. I wondered what the preacher could be thinking. Paul catalogs his sufferings to show his devotion to Christ, and there is not a hint that he thought he was doing too much! Or, how many sermons contain striking alliteration, but the main points do not match what the biblical text actually says? One reason for the decline of expositional preaching is lack of faith. What do we believe really builds God’s church? The scriptures say that “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Ro 10:17). If we want our people to trust in God and to obey him, then they must hear the word of God, for God’s word is the means by which faith is generated. Do we say that the Bible is central, but in practice depend upon church growth strategies, recent insights from psychology, and leadership techniques? I am not denying that church growth seminars, psychological study, and understanding leadership may profit us in our ministries. Problems arise, however, when such things become supreme rather than the scriptures. For instance, our study of the Bible may be haphazard, hurried, and superficial, but we feel a rush of excitement when Leadership arrives. Does not such a response reveal that we believe that Leadership is more useful and practical than God’s word?

We may even decide the main points of the sermon befo...

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